Westside is back where it belongs—in the Class AA championship game.
Hope Lester scored 26 points and sparked a 10-0 fourth quarter spurt as the Lady Renegades beat Keyser, 56-44, to reach the state finals for the third consecutive year.
WHS will take on No. 5 seed Sissonville in the finals on Saturday at noon. Keyser (24-3) made five threes in the second half and Lexi Carr’s shot with 5:21 to play brought the Golden Tornado all the way back from 14 down into a 39-39 tie.
“That’s when our experience really, really showed up,” said Renegades coach Jamie Lusk. “We got some stops when we needed them. The 3-2 zone is our best defense.”
Westside held Keyser scoreless for nearly three minutes while going on a 10-0 run to regain control of the game.
Danielle Brown’s put back broke the tie.
After a Keyser turnover, Lester drove inside and drew the foul. The three-point play made it 44-39.
Lester connected from 15 feet and eventually went inside for another three-point play to increase the lead to 49-39.
“(Lester) is a match up nightmare,” said Keyser coach Josh Blowe. “She’s their best shooter, best rebounder, best defender.”
“I want to win,” stated Lester. “We knew we had to fight harder.”
Keyser got within 50-44 on a trey from Katlynn Tichnell.
Lester went 6-6 at the stripe to put the game away.
Westside rolled to a 16-8 first quarter lead and made it 18-8 before the Tornado battled back.
Lester picked up her third personal with 5:21 left in the second quarter. Keyser got within 18-14 on a three-point play from Lexi Taylor.
But with Lester on the bench, veterans Faith Davis and Danielle Brown took up the slack.
Brown made two foul shots. Davis stole the ball and turned it into a lay up.
Davis later added a foul shot to push the lead to 23-14. Keyser had just one free throw in the final 5:21 of the half.
“I told Danielle and Faith that you have to be aggressive,” said Lusk.
Keyser went nearly eight minutes without a field goal, and WHS opened up its biggest lead of the night at 33-19 when Stephanie Brown dribbled under the basket and made a lay up.
Karr hit two treys and drove to the bucket to slice it to 35-29.
Katie Hoban and Tichnell scored from close range, and Carr’s three tied it up.
“Keyser is a great team. very quick and shoots the ball well,” said Lusk.
“I think we proved we were better than a 6 seed,”Blowe commented.
In addition to her 26 points, Lester had nine rebounds and three steals.
Davis had 10 points and four steals. Brown scored 10 and had five assists.
Carr scored 14 for Keyser, which was making its first ever appearance in the state tournament. Tichnell tallied nine.
John Conley can be reached at 304-732-6060 or on Twitter @PIHnews.
Photo: Hope Lester (right) of Westside prepares to shoot foul shots in the final moments of Friday morning’s state semifinal against Keyser.